Jan 27

How Mets Answered Off-Season Questions

The New York Mets faced a myriad of questions entering the off-season. Now, with spring training staring us in the face. let’s see how have they answered them.

REBUILDING THE ROTATION

With Matt Harvey lost for the season following Tommy John surgery, the Mets needed to add two starters because they had no assurances of help from their minor league system that includes Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

Bartolo Colon was signed to a two-year contract, theoretically to fill the void this season and in 2015 if there was a problem in Harvey’s rehab.

Within the past two weeks they signed John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka, which should give them the promise of at least five innings from the fifth starter.

Colon is an upgrade over Aaron Harang, and if Matsuzaka pitches as he did in his final three starts last season, he will keep things in order until the prospects arrive.

Conclusion: They are better now than after the season, but not good enough to make them better than a .500 team without some help.

BOLSTERING THE BULLPEN

With Bobby Parnell recovering from neck surgery, the Mets’ Plan B is to make Vic Black the closer.

The Mets will bring back most of their 2013 bullpen, but there won’t be enough arms in camp to create widespread competition.

Conclusion: Things would be better if the Mets could depend on Parnell’s status, but the bullpen heading into spring training is no better than last year’s.

SETTLING ON A FIRST BASEMAN

Most Mets fans said the team should have done this last July and cut ties with Ike Davis. Unable to trade him – and initially showing signs of leaning toward Lucas Duda – it appears the Mets are back to square one by giving Davis another chance.

The Mets’ outward efforts to deal Davis only decreased his value. Duda doesn’t have much trade value, either. Neither does Wilmer Flores, who won’t be given a chance to compete for the first base job.

Conclusion: What was a season-long distraction lasted through the winter and will greet us in Port St. Lucie.

ADDRESSING SHORTSTOP

Acquiring a shortstop was a top priority during the winter, but the Mets were never in it for Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew is well out of their price range.

Prior to the Winter Meetings, GM Sandy Alderson suggested Ruben Tejada would get another chance. The Mets also brought back Omar Quintanilla as Tejada’s back-up.

Conclusion: Instead of upgrading, the Mets are reduced to hoping for Tejada to play better than he had ever been before.

ADDING POWER TO THE OUTFIELD

Curtis Granderson was signed to a four-year contract and Chris Young was given a one-year deal. Granderson is coming off an injury prone, non-productive year.

Granderson is young enough to give the Mets hope he can bounce back, although nobody expects him to duplicate his Yankee Stadium numbers at Citi Field.

Conversely, Young is several years removed from his best seasons. The Mets are hoping for lightning in a bottle from him.

Conclusion: A productive Granderson will upgrade the offense, improve the outfield and protect David Wright in the batting order. No guarantees, however.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 26

Not Worth Risk To Push Matt Harvey’s Return

According to several published reports, Matt Harvey said he’s aiming to return at the end of the season, which would be a foolish decision by the New York Mets.

One might argue an advantage to having Harvey pitch in 2014 is it gives the Mets an opportunity to see where he stands in his recovery, but it’s a stretch because there’s no doubt he’s in their 2015 plans.

HARVEY: Don't rush him.

HARVEY: Don’t rush him.

Harvey is a given for 2015, but if there’s any doubt, that’s why Bartolo Colon received a two-year deal. Colon’s presence, coupled with the anticipated development of Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, gives the Mets flexibility in when to bring back their ace.

The normal recovery time from Tommy John surgery is a year. If the Mets really wanted Harvey back for 2015, they should have scheduled surgery immediately after the injury, but instead they messed around with the idea of Harvey resting in the hope in coming back for spring training and pitching this year.

That was a pipe dream and most people knew it, but the Mets opted to placate Harvey’s whims, which could have been disastrous had he been ready for the season but re-injured his elbow.

“When you see stories of guys coming back in 10 months, I’m going to think, ‘Hey, I can come back in nine,’ ’’ Harvey told reporters recently at an event in Boston. “Unfortunately, I don’t make those decisions. I can’t throw the uniform on and go back on the mound without the permission of higher-ups.

“That’s my personality –  I always want to be out there. Like I’ve said all along, I’m not a doctor, so I don’t have those answers. But of course I want to get back on the mound.’’

As much as Harvey wants to pitch this season, he said he doesn’t regret changing his mind about having surgery.

Early in his young career, Harvey has already established a reputation for pushing the envelope when it comes to his health. He said nothing after tweaking his back and ended up missing a start. He was again quiet when he developed tightness in his forearm, which led to the elbow injury and then surgery..

Then, there was his insistence in not having surgery and taking the resting route in an effort to be ready for spring training. GM Sandy Alderson said he wasn’t going to push Harvey toward the knife, but later acknowledged a sense of relief when he relented to surgery.

There will come a time this summer after a string of minor league starts when Harvey will be asked how he feels. He’ll undoubtedly say he feels good and there will be a buzz about bringing him back for a handful of starts.

The buzz would grow exceptionally loud if the Mets were over .500 and/or close to a wild card slot. In short: the better the Mets, the louder the buzz.

The Mets would be wise to ignore the buzz, as nothing can be gained by rushing back Harvey. The odds would be long – even if Harvey were to pitch in September– of getting into the playoffs. They are even longer without him, and to rush his return is foolish.

The Mets have waited a long time to return to the playoffs, but a little longer won’t kill them. Pushing the envelope on Harvey and having him getting hurt again would be devastating.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 25

Mets Signed Daisuke Matsuzaka To Compete For Fifth Starter

After several months of speculation, the New York Mets finally did the obvious and re-sign free-agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth spot.

He’ll go against Jenrry Mejia, recently signed left-hander John Lannan and prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

Matsuzaka was signed to a minor league contract, which is what GM Sandy Alderson wanted from the outset with a veteran presence.

Once Matsuzaka, 33, straightened out his mechanics by speeding up his delivery, he closed on an upswing and finished at 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts with the Mets.

Matsuzaka had a 10.95 ERA over 12.1 innings over his first three starts with the Mets, but after working with pitching coach Dan Warthen, he had a 1.37 ERA over his final four starts.

Speculation has Matsuzaka and Lannan moving to the lead because of their experience, and to give Mejia more time in his recovery from elbow surgery and Montero and deGrom in their development.

An advantage of going with Matsuzaka out of the gate is if gets off to a strong start – and the same applies to Lannan – it enhances their ability to make a trade at the July 31 deadline.

Did the Mets improve their rotation with a substantial name such as David Price, or solid starters such as Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo?

No, but they improved more than their cynics thought they might. They signed three starters to fill the back end of their rotation in Bartolo Colon as their fourth starter, and Lannan and Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth starter role.

Do they have a playoff rotation? Not likely, but they have a rotation that could be solid enough to make .500 possible.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 24

Mets Blew It With Ike Davis On Many Levels; So Did His Father

Ike Davis’ father, former Yankees reliever Ron Davis, has ripped into the New York Mets. The elder Davis said the Mets screwed up handling his son, which, while correct on some levels, can’t make things any easier for Ike if he stays with the team.

Ron Davis is correct, but partially.

RON DAVIS: Wrong in attacking Mets

RON DAVIS: Wrong in attacking Mets

Yes, he’s correct in that this began not with the Mets’ intent to trade Ike Davis, but for how public they made it.

“I think that’s why the Mets have really screwed up in that situation – because they’ve publicly done it so much,’’ Ron Davis said. “It’s saying to my son, `Hey, we don’t want you anymore.’ ’’

Well, yes and no.

The issue isn’t what it said about Ike Davis, but in what it tells other teams, `We don’t want Ike Davis, but please take him off our hands.’

The first rule in making a trade is to not devalue the talent you’re trying to unload. If you don’t think the player is worth anything, then why would other teams?

Another rule is to understand the value of the talent you’re trying to deal and don’t go in with the idea of fleecing the other team. The teams the Mets were talking to, notably Milwaukee, said GM Sandy Alderson’s asking price – the Brewers’ fifth starter – was too high.

So, the Mets did not want Davis and then asked for too much. But, that isn’t the whole story with how the Mets mishandled Davis.

With Ike Davis coming back from the ankle injury and the virus, the Mets might have rushed him back in 2012. Despite a horrid first half, the Mets didn’t send him back to the minors to work on his mechanics. Instead, they kept him around, a gamble that paid off when he had a strong second half to finish with 32 homers.

IKE DAVIS: Needs to learn to hit.

IKE DAVIS: Needs to learn to hit.

He was even more lost last year, but despite all signs saying Davis needed to go to the minors, the Mets ignored them in the hope of another strong second half. Long after it became apparent Davis was lost at the plate was when they sent him down. Then, they clearly brought him back too soon, which only compounded their mistake.

Alderson also screwed up by not having a defined objective for Davis after the season. Alderson had enough of a sampling of Davis to know what he should do.

That he didn’t want him was clear in the effort to trade him, but that intent should have been understated and with a lower asking price. By this time, teams were waiting out the Mets in hope they would release him. However, Alderson was playing chicken holding out for more.

Then, Alderson blew it more by offering Davis arbitration. Why would they do that for a player they clearly didn’t want?

While the Mets blew it on several levels with Ike Davis, I would be remiss in not calling out Ron Davis on a few things.

OK, you’re unhappy with how the Mets handled your son. Anybody can see that, but ripping the Mets does nobody any good, especially your son. The last thing a major league player needs is to have a Little League father upsetting things in the papers and clubhouse. What could the other players be thinking You want to rip the Mets? Fine. Do it after he’s out of the organization.

Secondly, don’t blame Citi Field for your son’s troubles. His problem is not with the ballpark, but his approach to hitting. Quite simply, he doesn’t know how to hit.

His comment last spring that, “I’m a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs. Strikeouts come with that,’’ tells you all you need to know about Ike Davis as a hitter.

Ron, you were a big league pitcher. Are you telling me you can’t look at your son’s hitting approach and say how you would attack him? C’mon. If you really wanted to help him, you’d study the video and tell him he needs to be more patient, he needs to stop trying to pull everything, he needs to use Citi Field to his advantage and hit balls in the gaps.

That’s how you would help your son. Not by being a Little League father. Ike Davis doesn’t need your coddling; he needs tough love.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 23

Mets Agree To Terms With Duda

The New York Mets have traditionally avoided the messy process of arbitration by agreeing to terms with Lucas Duda for $1.6375 million. That figure surpasses Duda’s career earnings over the previous three season combined.

Duda hit .223 with 15 homers and 33 RBI last season and filed for $1.9 million. The Mets countered for just over $1.3 million. Of all his numbers last season, most impressive was a .352 on-base percentage, up from .329 the previous season.

Where Duda fits in with the 2014 Mets is uncertain.

It was initially thought Duda would compete with Ike Davis for the first base job, but this was immediately after last season. At the time, Mets manager Terry Collins didn’t see it was possible Duda and Davis would be on the team together as they were essentially the same type of player.

Then, it was believed Duda would start as the Mets were trying to trade Davis. But, when they couldn’t unload Davis, GM Sandy Alderson said it was possible Duda and Davis could be on the Opening Day roster, and the idea of Duda in the outfield was revisited.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos